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Court of Session

The Court of Session is Scotland's superior civil court though its authority is not supreme as appeals my be made unto the House of Lords (and the proposed UK Supreme Court).

It is a court of the first instance and also court of appeal and sits only in Parliament House in Edinburgh.

It is, notionally, a unitary collegiate court; with all judges, other than the Lord President and the Lord Justice-Clerk holding the same rank and title - Senator of the College of Justice and also Lord/Lady of Council and Session. The maximum number of judges is thirty-two. The judges are the same ones who sit in the High Court of Justiciary.

The Court of Session has extensive powers to regulate its own procedures and practice by Acts of Sederunt.

The court is divided into the Outer House and the Inner House.

The Outer House

The Outer House consists of twenty four junior Lords and Ladies of Session who sit singly, sometimes with a jury of 12, to determine cases of the first instance only (i.e. not appeals). Jurisdiction is extensive and extends to all kinds of civil claims unless expressly excluded by statute. Appeals may be heard from the Outer House unto the Inner House.

The Inner House

The Inner House is sub-divided into two divisions of equal authority and jurisdiction - the First Division, headed by the Lord President; and the Second Division headed by the Lord Justice-Clerk.

The quorum for each Division is three judges out of the four who sit in the Division. Decisions are by a majority, each presiding judge having one vote - none of which are casting. Therefore in the event of an equal division the case would have to be reheard before a larger panel.

In extremely important cases the two Divisions may sit together as a Court of Seven Judges and, exceptionally, summon even further judges.

The Inner House will sit as a court of first instance in respect of special cases. A special case is one where the facts are not disputed but where a legal difficulty has arisen.

Unlike the High Court of Justiciary, which deals with Scottish criminal cases, appeals can be heard from the Court of Session unto the House of Lords (and probably the proposed UK Supreme Court). This remains a matter of great concern for Scottish cases may be (and have been) decided by Law Lords whom are not versed in Scots Law. Furthermore, the Act of Union 1707 expressly forbid such a situation from occurring.

See also: List of Senators of the College of Justice